Woolly mammoth meatballs anyone? Aussie cultivated meat company will test it first

Mammoth skeleton/Shutterstock Images

Food scientists on Tuesday March 28 unveiled a giant meatball made from lab-grown synthetic flesh of an extinct woolly mammoth, saying the protein from the distant past could prove to be one of the answers for future foods.

The meatball is not ready to be eaten by humans yet; it was displayed under a glass bell jar by Australian-based cultivated meat firm Vow at the NEMO science museum in Amsterdam, according to Science Alert.

“I won’t eat it at the moment because we haven’t seen this protein for 4,000 years,” said Ernst Wolvetang of the Queensland University’s Australian Institute of Bioengineering who worked with Vow on the project.

“But after safety testing, I’d be really curious to see what it tastes like.”

The scientists slow-cooked the giant ball in an oven before browning the outside with a blowtorch.

“It smelt a bit like when we cook our crocodile meat,” James Ryan, Vow’s chief scientific officer told the audience at the museum.

Christopher Bryant, a British-based expert in alternative proteins told AFP prospective lab-meat lovers had nothing to fear from cultured meat.

“Unlike conventional meat, which comes from dirty and unpredictable animals, cultivated meat is produced with extreme precision in sanitized food production facilities,” he said.

“Because of this, cultivated meat avoids the foodborne pathogens, antibiotics, and other contaminants frequently found in meat from animals,” he told AFP.

“We chose woolly mammoth meat because it is a symbol of loss, wiped out by climate change,” Tim Noakesmith, co-founder of Vow, told AFP at the event.

“We face a similar fate if we don’t do things differently,” including changing practices such as large-scale farming and how we eat,” Noakesmith said.

Grown over a period of some weeks, the meat was “cultivated” by food scientists who first identified the DNA sequence for mammoth myoglobin, a key protein that gives the meat its flavour.

Meat consumption is forecast to increase more than 70 percent by 2050, and scientists have increasingly been turning to alternatives such as plant-based meats and lab-grown meat.

Self-confessed “failed vegan” Noakesmith said his Sydney-based startup Vow was not aiming to stop people from eating meat, but to “give them something that’s better” and convert them to the idea of lab-created protein.

“We chose to make a mammoth meatball to draw attention to the fact that the future of food can be better and more sustainable.”

Food scientists said Vow, which plans to launch its first commercial product, lab-grown Japanese quail in Singapore in a few months “is an attempt to redefine what cultured meat is.”

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